- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Angst about Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s divisive leadership spread through the party Wednesday, but insiders said replacing her before the national convention this summer would be too messy.

The smoldering dissatisfaction with Mrs. Wasserman Schultz burst into the open with a news report that Capitol Hill Democrats were pondering her removal because she had become a political liability and an obstacle to unifying the party behind likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Almost since the race began, presidential hopeful Sen. Bernard Sanders and his supporters have lodged complaints about Mrs. Wasserman Schultz “rigging” the nominating process to benefit Mrs. Clinton.

SEE ALSO: Sanders loses ground in California as campaign’s provocative behavior drives away voters

But now the scorn is coming from Democratic lawmakers and party officials who support Mrs. Clinton and fear Mrs. Wasserman Schultz’s presence will prevent Sanders supporters from coalescing behind Mrs. Clinton when she locks up the nomination.

“There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on,” a pro-Clinton Democratic senator told The Hill, which first reported the intra-party flap.

Jon M. Ausman, a DNC member from Florida told The Washington Times that Mrs. Wasserman Schultz had in fact run the nominating process unfairly, adding that he disagreed with the notion that party leaders should remain neutral in primaries.

He said Mrs. Wasserman Schultz suffered detractors within her home state’s Democratic Party. But he said that it was too late in the election to force her out.

“It is risky to change generals mid-campaign. That rarely works out well,” said Mr. Ausman.

The simmering hostility between Sanders supporters and the Democratic Party establishment boiled over at the state party convention in Nevada, where chaos erupted amid charges that party officials were helping Mrs. Clinton secure more delegates.

The fear is that similar mayhem as in Nevada, where Sanders supporters rushed the stage, shouted insults and hurled chairs across the floor, could break out at the July national convention in Philadelphia.

After Nevada, Mr. Sanders endorsed the primary opponent in Mrs. Wasserman Schultz’s South Florida district. He also announced that she would not continue as DNC chair if he secures the Democratic nomination.

DNC spokesman Luis Miranda said that Mrs. Wasserman Schultz has many senators and congressman who publicly support her.

“She’s going to continue to focus on uniting Democrats and on being an asset to help elect them up and down the ballot in November, just as she’s done for many in both chambers,” he said.

Tentative support

Still, support for Mrs. Wasserman Schultz was tentative in Washington.

The Senate Democratic leadership team refused to answer questions about their level of support for Mrs. Wasserman Schultz.

When asked about President Obama’s support for Mrs. Wasserman Schultz, White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman said she generally deferred to the DNC and campaigns on political questions.

However, she offered a January statement from another White House spokesman saying Mr. Obama was “grateful for her service” and “proud of all the hard work being done by the entire team at the DNC.”

“I have no reason to believe that our position on this has changed,” said Ms. Friedman.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon called reports of dissatisfaction with Mrs. Wasserman Schultz “baseless rumors” and said the campaign was not familiar with any conversations about her stepping down.

“From our viewpoint Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a very dedicated leader for our party,” he said on CNN. “You’ve heard Bernie Sanders suggested that if he were the nominee, he would seek to remove her, we have not said that.”

Mr. Fallon added that he did not understand the basis for Mr. Sanders‘ complaints about Mrs. Wasserman Schultz.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also came to the defense of the chairwoman and said the reports of plots against her were overblown.

“Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz has the respect of her colleagues for her efforts and her leadership to unify the party and to win the election in November,” the California Democrats said at her weekly press conference at the Capitol, referring to a statement her office released earlier.

Asked whether she shared that respect for Mrs. Wasserman Schultz, she replied: “That was my statement.”

Mrs. Wasserman Schultz’s actions that raised eyebrows among Sanders supporters included originally allowing only six debates and scheduling many at times that would limit the TV audiences, such as coinciding with major sporting events.

The schedule was perceived as benefiting Mrs. Clinton as the presumptive front-runner, and more debates were later added when the Clinton campaign appeared to be in trouble.

She also was sharply critical of the Vermont senator for what Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said was his insufficient condemnation of his supporters’ actions at the wild Nevada caucus, even comparing Mr. Sanders‘ supporters to those of the Republican presumptive nominee.

“It is never OK for violence and intimidation to be the response to that frustration,” she told CNN earlier this month. “That’s what happens with the Trump campaign.”

Mr. Sanders also balked at the DNC forming a joint fundraising committee with the Clinton campaign and blocking the Sanders campaign from using the party’s voter database.

Mrs. Pelosi insisted that the discord in the party was common ahead of the national convention.

“I think that some of the unrest and unease that is out there among some people — and I don’t see it as Bernie vs. Hillary — I think it is just some unease that is out there,” she said.

However, she said the unease with the nominating process indicated that the party should “revisit delegate selection rules” after the election.

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